Defense Minister Ehud Barak's approval earlier Thursday of an IDF plan to impose sanctions on the Gaza Strip in wake of the escalation in Kassam rocket attacks was the first step, defense officials told The Jerusalem Post, towards a "complete disengagement" including the gradual reduction in Palestinian dependency on Israel for gas and electricity.
During his weekly security meeting on Thursday Barak approved the plan that had been formulated by Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yosef Mishlav in line with the recent cabinet decision that defined Gaza as a "hostile entity."
According to the plan, one of the power lines connecting Israel and Gaza will be shut down at first for 15 minutes after a rocket attack, gradually increasing the cutoff length if the barrages continue, up to a two-hour limit. In addition, Israel will begin reducing the amount of gasoline it allows into the Gaza Strip.
Defense officials stressed that the fairly-limited sanctions were not capable of creating a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and were being imposed with the eventual goal - of the defense establishment - to completely cut off Palestinian dependency on Israel. The cuts to electricity will not affect Gaza-based hospitals, defense officials said.
Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said Israel had no choice but to take punitive measures. "Should we tell them to continue firing rockets at the same power station that provides them with electricity and continue to bomb the water system that provides them with water?" he asked.
Defense officials stressed that the cuts to electricity and gas were not being taken to "punish" the Palestinians but to instead gradually begin the final disengagement from the Gaza Strip, which was started in 2005 when Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Palestinian territory.
According to the proposal, which officials stressed was in its early stages, Israel would completely disconnect from Gaza by closing off the Erez, Karni, Sufa and Kerem Shalom crossings and instead direct humanitarian organizations to work with Egypt.
A senior official in the Prime Minister's Office said that while in the long run Israel hoped to reach a situation where Israel could completely cut itself off from Gaza, "we are not at that stage yet."
The material emphasizes that the actions are a response to the unrelenting Kassam attacks that continued even after Israel fully withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005. The material stresses that the actions are within the realms of international law, and that Israel's first responsibility is to protect its citizens.
Israel's ambassadors and spokesmen are expected to say that Hamas is engaged in war crimes by targeting innocent civilians, and that Israel's steps are not collective punishment but rather the justified response to attacks on Israeli citizens.
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